Time to cherish memories of heroes to inspire gen next
DIMAPUR, DECEMBER 29
At fifty, the state of Nagaland will have many commitments to fulfill and new goals to achieve. These will include issues in the political, social or economical fronts. And an important sector which will gain prominence as the years add up and more names are added to the list of achievements will be the documentation of Naga heroes and pioneers.
Since inception of statehood, Nagaland has produced many great leaders and personalities who have brought fame and contributed to building up the Naga society in numerous ways. Though they no longer remain with us, their invaluable contributions are a mark in the fabric of the Naga society.
The name of Angami Zapu Phizo is one all generations of Nagas are familiar with. His stand for Naga freedom and the developments thereafter led to the state of Nagaland born out of political agreement with the Government of India.
The state government led by Neiphiu Rio as Chief Minister has seen development getting a push especially in sectors related to the growth of the youth. Youth entrepreneurship schemes, sports and music being some of the highlights.
In sports, “Dr. T Ao Football Tournament”, named after Dr. Talimeren Ao, is now the only sport tournament recognized by the Sports Authority of India.
The legendary sports person from Nagaland was the first captain of Indian Olympic Football Team (London Olympics 1948). In fact, the good doctor also made news for playing the matches barefooted and created quite a sensation with the spectators during the London games.
Dr. Talimeren Ao, the 4th son of Rev. Subongwati Ao was not only a great sportsman but also a doctor by profession. He pursued his MBBS from R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata as a fulfillment of his father’s last wish. The footprints he leaves behind are a beacon for all sport lovers in Nagaland.
Like the Football Tournament, there is also a road T. Ao in Kohima. The suggestion apparently made by the Chief Minister Rio.
Other landmarks after the sportsman include the T. Ao indoor stadium at Cotton College, Guwahati, T. Ao outdoor stadium at Jakhalabanda (Assam) and according to his son, Akok Tally, a statue of his father is being sculpted in Siliguri, West Bengal. Till Rio’s rule as Chief Minister, Dr T. Ao had been more adored in Mohammedan Sporting.
T. Ao who was born on January 28, 1918 lived till the age of 80 years. He died on September 13, 1998 and was laid to rest at the Naga Council Cemetery.
Cemeteries are not favored sites to visit unlike parks . But recently I went to pay my respects to my uncle who recently died and was laid to rest at the Naga Council Cemetery, Dimapur.
In a graveyard, tombs vary in sizes and designs depending on the financial status of the family. But what took me by surprise was the grave of late Dr. T Ao. It was so plain and simple and could easily be overlooked, not commensurate I thought with the memory of a sportsman who had delighted so many with his talent.
In contrast the “Kohima World War II Cemetery” is dedicated to the 10,000 Allied soldiers who lost their lives during the Japanese invasion. The Battle of Kohima had lasted for nearly three months between April 4 and June 22, 1944, and these brave hearts fighting for the Allied forces had admirably blocked the Japanese invasion right at the border of India.
Dr. T. Ao whose grave lies in one small corner of Naga Council Cemetery, Dimapur is believed to be one of the first burials during the late 1990’s. Such an extraordinary man who had lifted the names of the Nagas to a higher level should also be kept live not only by word of mouth but the small corner where his soul lies should also be remembered. When everything is changing drastically and upgradation is taking place everywhere, the need to upgrade Dr. T. Ao’s grave has become imperative.
Nagas today build graves of their loved ones, spending thousands and lakhs of rupees. There is need to upgrade Dr. T. Ao’s grave not only to cherish his memory but as an important landmark for the younger generation to be inspired from his life.
Talking to Eastern Mirror, Akok Tally stated that his father was a simple and humble man who was shy of the big lights.
Yes, Dr. T. Ao would have preferred a simple tombstone but after what he has done for Nagas and for the game of football in India, he is deserving of a memorial which will inspire the younger generation.
Akok Tally who built his father’s grave in 1999 with the help of his sibling wishes to upgrade his father’s grave but his financial status does not support this desire.
If such a personality has not asked anything in return for an achievement he has shared with all Nagas the least that the state and the people of Nagaland can do to acknowledge his contribution is to erect a memorial befitting the memory of the man.